Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about the Christian feast. For other meanings see epiphany (disambiguation).
Epiphany (Greek: επιφάνεια, "the appearance, miraculous phenomenon") is a Christian feast intended to celebrate the 'shining forth' or revelation of God to humankind in human form, in the person of Jesus. The observance had its origins in the eastern Christian churches, and included the birth of Jesus; the visit of the three Magi (Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar) who arrived in Bethlehem; and all of Jesus' childhood events, up to his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist. The feast was initially based on, and viewed as a fulfillment of, the Jewish Feast of Lights. This was fixed on January 6.
The first reference to Epiphany in the Latin West is a slighting remark by Clement of Alexandria in Stromateis, I, xxi, 45:
- "There are those, too, who over-curiously assign to the Birth of Our Saviour not only its year but its day…"
Thus in the Latin church, the feast of Christmas was established before that of Epiphany. Over time the western churches decided to celebrate Christmas on December 25. The eastern churches continued to treat January 6 as the day marking Jesus's birth. This has given rise in the west to the notion of a twelve day festival, starting on December 25, and ending on January 6, called the twelve days of Christmas, although some Christian cultures — especially those of Latin America — extend it to forty days, ending on Candlemas, or February 2 (known as Candelaria in Spanish).
Prior to 1970, the Roman Catholic Church (and prior to 1976, the Anglican churches) reckoned Epiphany as an eight-day feast, beginning on January 6 and continuing through the Octave of Epiphany, or January 13. More recently, Roman Catholics in the United States mark Epiphany on the Sunday after the first Saturday in January (before this the Sunday between January 1 and January 6, in years when there was one, was designated the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus), and all Catholics and Anglicans (along with many other Protestants) now formally end the Christmas season on the Sunday immediately following January 6, or, for American Catholics, the ensuing Monday in years when the Epiphany falls on January 7 or 8. In either case, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord is observed on the latter day, after which the first installment of Ordinary Time begins.
The Irish call this day Little Christmas. In Rome, "Epiphania" was transformed into Befana, the great fair held at that season, when sigillaria of terracotta or baked pastry were sold (Macrobius I, x, xxiv; II, xlix).
In Spain, Cuba and some Latin American countries Epiphany day is called El Día de Reyes (Kings' Day, as the Magi are known as the Los Tres Reyes Magos) or Pascua de Negros (Blackmen Christmas). In Spanish tradition, on this day, the Magi deliver Christmas presents.
In some regions of Mexico, it is traditional for children to leave their shoes out on the evening of January 5, sometimes filling them with hay for the camels, so that the Magi will be generous with their gifts. In Puerto Rico, it is traditional for children to fill a box with grass or hay and put it underneath their bed, for the same reasons. This is analogous to children leaving cookies out for Santa Claus.
- Epiphany in Greece Epiphany customs in Greece and photos from the Epiphany ceremony
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Epiphany
- Catholic Traditions and Customs for the Feast of the Epiphany
- Twelfth Night (holiday)
- Zvaigznes Diena
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